Why I Hate... The Star Wars Prequels


4th July 2005

I'm going to put my hands up and admit from the get-go that I'm a huge fan of Star Wars. By that, I mean the original three we all know and love. Star Wars was the first movie I ever saw at the cinema aged 4 (apparently Bambi might have preceded that, but I choose to forget that because it's shit), and I remember going to watch all three back-to-back at my local Odeon with staff dressed in costume. I had all the toys as a kid (thanks mum, the local Oxfam were REAL fucking happy to receive that motherlode when I moved out - one day I may forgive you, but not for a long time), I had the soundtracks on vinyl, stickers. You name it, I had it. I bought the VHS, then the special cleaned-up VHS. Then the Special Editions VHS. You get the point here about my love for the originals. Every bloke my age is the same. And some women, but they're mostly fat and also like Buffy so they don't count.

So try to imagine my film-geek Star Wars heart when I heard that Lucas was going to make three more, to cover the backstory and lead into A New Hope. My flatmate & I pored over stills released, read all the info and envied Ewan McGregor for being Obi-Wan Kenobi. We had a three year wait ahead of us, but hey, it was coming. Then the teaser trailer. Remember that? People went to the cinema to watch just the teaser before walking out and talking about it. The legions of huge ships making the grass ripple, Samuel L Jackson, Darth Maul, lightsabers, R2D2, Yoda. I was so hard a dog couldn't chew it.

I went to the first available showing, settled down in my seat and kept telling myself "this is it, this is really it. Seventeen years I've waited for this." "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." then the blast of THAT theme tune, the opening scrawl, the pan down to the planet, the ship entering above. Oh sweet nirvana. And it was about 10mins into the film I began to feel something was wrong. Two hours later I came into the sun, saying to my flatmate "That was pretty good, not awesome but then it can't match the hype we had. Still pretty good though." It wasn't until I bought the DVD and watched it again that the realisation dawned upon me now the hype had subsided.

The Phantom Menace is shit.

Fast-forward three years to Attack of The Clones, with diminished expectations in hand, I watched it nonetheless. And guess what?

Attack of The Clones is shit as well.

Another three years down the line, Revenge of the Sith. A heart that had sunk lower than the abyssal trench. I tried, I really did try to like this one. But?

Revenge of the Sith is also shit.

It pains me to admit as a Star Wars fan that the new movies are on a level with watching your favourite ice cream fall from your hand into an enormous stool and slowly melt into a foul goop that even ants won't touch. How? How could Lucas fuck this up so badly? I didn't create the originals and even I could've done a better job. So could you. How do you go from creating one of the most loved, consistently poll-topping trilogies ever, to releasing these terrible films? One word - power. If you know your Star Wars through and through, or your 70's cinema history then you'll be aware of how much help Lucas had with creating Star Wars. His script was average at best and was licked into shape by two of his friends, sworn to secrecy in case the studio panicked. His rough-cut was pulled to pieces by Brian De Palma and other friends forcing him to re-edit and reshape. He had an awful lot of assistance to get it into the shape we all know and love these days. So when Empire came around, he got Lawrence Kasdan to write the scripts and handed directing over to Irvin Kershner. Likewise with Return of The Jedi and Richard Marquand. He made all the money in the world, cut his ties with Hollywood and formed LucasFilm. He insulated himself from critics and concentrated on technical advancements in cinema. Except for Howard The Duck.

So with no help on scripts or friends willing to say, "George mate, this sucks" he went out and created three films that managed to make it embarrassing to say "I like Star Wars". "But they're for kids!" is the common defence. Nope, sorry. The first three were for kids as well, yet they stand up today - and not just through rose-tinted glasses either. There is no semblance of character, excitement or involvement in the prequel trilogy. The action scenes are like watching a hyperactive spastic child playing a videogame and the dramatic scenes are akin to watching somebody else's child's Christmas school play. But why? What's missing?

You could argue that because they're prequels, we already know how it will end anyway so what's the point? Well, the point is to flesh out the characters, to show how and why they became where we met them in 1977. Yet this just doesn't happen. Ever. Even the first teaser poster had a young Anakin with his shadow falling to create Darth Vader. Awesome, we're gonna see how he turned, why he went mental. Nope, not until the last half of the last film you ain't. Okay, so we'll see the fall of the Jedi and how The Empire came into existence. Sorry, not until the last half of the last film you ain't. We'll see Yoda training Obi-Wan, like he said in Empire. No, actually that'll be Liam Neeson with a comic beard. And there's no training, with Obi-Wan progressing to master all by himself just by frowning. So what do we see? Some balls about trade blockades and political shenanigans, and a god-awful love story. And lots and lots of videogame tie-in moments.

Y'see, this is the problem. Lucas says he made these films for kids. Really? Kids aren't interested in political machinations and soppy love stories. Kids want spaceships and excitement and danger and intrigue. Which, oddly, is what appealed about the original trilogy. So it's not for kids then, we've figured that out. But adults don't want to watch a seven year-old shout "Yippee!" and run about being cute. We want characters we can identify with. The original had it all - basic, sure, but they were there. Luke, the na've farmboy who longs for excitement and ends up a Jedi Master. Han Solo, the selfish rogue who ends up a Rebellion leader and hero. Leia, the spoilt Princess who ends up leading the entire Rebellion and falls in love. Character arcs and growths that felt natural, interesting and you actually cared about them. Darth Vader, the evil overlord supreme who finds redemption through his son. Cut to the new movies. Darth Vader has been reduced to a small boy who likes fixing things who progresses into a space-emo teenager. A stroppy, pissy little boy that would listen to nu-metal and slam his door really loudly because Obi-Wan won't let him out past 11pm. Obi-Wan, the ultimate Jedi warrior, the wizened hermit. He spends all three movies running from plot point to plot point and never quite figuring it out, a shit Hercule Poirot with a mullet. The Emperor goes from a scheming evil old man to...well... an even more scheming evil old man.

It just sucks space-balls. No characterisation on offer for those who aren't distracted by shiny lights and fast pictures (we're not cats, Lucas, we need something there). So many wasted moments. Darth Maul - the only thing to approach Darth Vader in terms of nastiness and villainy. He zips about on a space-scooter before being chopped in half. What a rubbish ending for an awesome character. Attack of The Clones? Wow, 100,000,000 Darth Mauls coming after The Jedi, then? Nope, sorry. And the whole point, the crux of these films - Anakin's turn to the dark side. He's a "Golly gosh!" kid who promises to return and free the human slaves on Tattooine (he doesn't), who turns into a sulky teen in Clones. His one moment of anger, his one slip from the Jedi path? He butchers Sandpeople for killing his mum. Wow, what an evil man he is to kill a race of people shown to be singularly hostile and hateful - Space Nazis - and he's a bad man for killing some?
"I killed them like animals, even the children" he whines to Amidala
"I love you" is her response.
Which highlights another problem with the new movies - dialogue. The famous quote "You can type this shit but you sure can't say it" never applied more. Think of the lines from the originals, "Aren't you a little short for a storm trooper?" "I love you/I know," "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope," "That's no moon" etc. What's in the new ones?
"I love you!"
"I love you more!"
"No, I love you more!"
Shit. Pure, untreated shit.

Action scenes? Bad. Think of the Death Star run, the speederbikes, AT-ATs, the trash compactor, Millennium Falcon etc. What's in the new ones? The Pod race? Sorry, Speederbikes in Jedi were better and more exciting. A submarine being chased by giant fish? No danger whatsoever. Ray Harryhausen monster-battles? The Rancor looked better (sans matte lines, granted). A chase through a droid factory, another asteroid belt chase, lots and lots more pointless choreographed lightsabers battles? Yawn. My personal favourite; Jango Fett hiring a lizard-chick to send robot bugs through a window to kill Amidala. Yep, a Bounty Hunter hiring a Bounty Hunter to kill somebody, using robot slugs. Jesus...we're about out of ideas now aren't we?

But the bane, the absolute peak of asshattedness and why the new Star Wars movies suck? Comedy. Sure, the original movies had some comedic moments but they were born from the situation and the snarky responses from characters. "What a wonderful smell you've discovered," "Great kid, don't get cocky," etc. But now we get intentional, for-laughs comedy moments smack-bang in the centre of action pieces and it just kills any emotional investment you may have in the characters. Take the climactic battle on Naboo in Phantom Menace, where they're fighting for the survival of the planet. What better than to have Jar-Jar comically get a gun stuck to his leg! Oh the hilarity! Remember the submarine chase and thecomedy bigger-fish-eats-big-fish escape? Stop, my sides! How about C3P0's comedy head-swap in the crucial arena battle in Clones, right after Jango gets his head lopped off! Chortle Chortle.

The prequel movies are just an ill-conceived, misguided series of films that have buried whatever good faith existed in the hearts of Star Wars fans, directed by a bullfrog necked, plaid-wearing control freak surrounded by yes-men who willingly plundered his back catalogue and welded fans' love to a groaning, wheezing freak of a trilogy. You know you're screwed as a fan when there are better plots for videogame spin-off, and it's then that you sink lower and lower into your seat as the dawning realisation that the new movies suck hit you.

George Lucas didn't rape my childhood - he just made three really bad films because nobody was brave enough to snatch the scripts away from him and slap his jowly face. Andy

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